Front Door to Cuba

Martí's Letter to Antonio Maceo

(From ObrAS COMPLETAS DE JOSÉ MARTÍ, La Habana, 1946, Vol.I, pp. 229-32)

New York, January 19, 1895

General Antonio Maceo


My well-loved friend:

From the congenial house where I only await the government's decision about our shipment to resume our campaign immediately and without loss of aid or respect, I am writing to you with more faith than regret, to give you a swift account of the disappointment which, by the hand of a coward, has come to stay our hand. It seems incredible that such a felicitous idea-taking three steamships to Cuba at once, with guns for 400 men and with numerous military stores-with so few hands involved and served by singularly virtuous people, has run aground, plagued from the very start of its realization by the direct, or indirect, Maceosurrender that Colonel Fernando López made of it. And I used the idea only at the crucial moment, because I was the adviser selected by the commander of one of the three expeditionary forces. In announcing to him-at the instant when his anger was brimming over because he was unable to obtain for himself the commission for the last arms purchase-that his time of service was near, on the same conditions as I was going to lend it and the rest of the expeditionary forces accept it, eh refused to serve in any conditions that "would oblige him to remain in Cuba or prevent his returning to the United States." He also told me that for his expedition eh cold obtain a steamship whose captain knew and sanctioned the expedition's objective, protested to me that he was going to do what he had already done for Marco Aurelio Soto-with the same persons and with absolute safety-and in spite of my express repugnance at single handedly and unnecessarily handling a contract I considered neither necessary nor feasible, obliged me to go the next day in broad daylight to a brokerage office of doubtful reputation. I learned from these brokers, before he made me go, that he could not obtain the steamship, and that he had revealed to them without authorization the supposed name with which I had already drawn up two fortunate contracts. Before he made me go, I learned from them that the name he gave them was the one that had already contracted for the two ships, a usual thing here, and that he had revealed the purpose of the contract from the very start, all of which he kept to himself during the conversation, which he assured me would beheld in a place of utmost respect, but which turned out to be in a noisy office with a common broker. This, my friend, occurred during the early days of December with two manned and equipped steamers already under contract-and you men there-and other things in other places-and the whole island moving and anxious-and I betrayed by a commander of the expedition since before leaving New York. Even so, through the proven skill and personal respect of the agent representing me, the fortunate departure might have been arranged, and indeed was, by changing the order of the ships and taking other swift measures. But when a suitable railroad car was held in order to carry this shipment via the proper tracks to our own warehouse and dock, Queralta sent to the railroad the part of the shipment that had been in his hands for over a year, during the Las Villas affair-the expedition he was to lead. He sent the shipment, I say, listed as military articles, and with the cartridge boxes I plain sight. This could have caused an immediate scandal, and so it did, and the railroad company refused to haul it without an honest but unwise declaration. And he had to take it back, as he did, with singular haste and good luck, lose the seal of our railroad car and its three-day voyage, and with much delay and certain inevitable publicity send it by a steamship line to its foreign dock. Even so, the steamship Lagonda was already being loaded, bound for Central America, and about to leave, when the Treasury Department in Washington-because of a letter from New York addressed to the steamship line on January 10 denouncing the purpose of the only two ships they knew about in New York-ordered the steamer detained and examined.

A very courageous young man, of whom I have already told you, quickly and fortunately saved this situation and what might have occurred had it not been saved. But even if the cargo seized in the warehouses is saved, as so far appears from the prosecuting attorney's opinion itself, time is lost, the chance to join forces with the anxious island is lost, and lost is the alliance which Spain could by no means suspect, as General Calleja's letter to the Jamaican consul proves. I have the original before me and in it one can see that his vigilance is wretched and blind and much less sharp than we think and quite inadequate and incapable. Lost is the triple voyage of the Lagonda, Amadis, and Baracoa, each ship selected for the greatest objective possible for each. But fortunately, there has been no loss of respect for the Cuban. The magnitude of the undertaking, concerning which neither you nor I will lose any time by having men feel sorry for us, seems to have astounded the more puny and incredulous Cubans. and in this same useless New York, where all the lively and efficient people have helped me, and will lovingly help me again, I have had great difficulty repressing a truly positive and enthusiastic public meeting, with the most vigorous detractors almost in charge, in order to show us their faith and begin new efforts. It will be done. Let us not look back. You will have a moment of pain, then smile. Or have I been deceived in that brotherly heart?

Antonio Maceo photo

If I am to overtake today's post by which I am returning Corona, who is not safe here as long as the claim that the Spanish agent is now beginning to set in motion lasts, I can only tell you my immediate idea so that I can receive your prompt reply before my month-long voyage from which it may well be that I shall not return. I have told Cuba the truth; I must not tie them down. If they can and wish, without waiting for the new consolidation I am preparing, let them start, uncertain of any immediate consolidation I am preparing, let them start, uncertain of any immediate consolidation, although always certain of any immediate consolidation, although always certain of me and of this manner of loving my country that you can see in me. If they want to wait for a new consolidation, there are two time limits for this, one of them short, and we are going to seek it, in case all of them-in view of a mature situation and attended within, needing only some direction and enterprise-in case all of them, I say, have the same spirit as you and I myself and our finest comrades. And so it is a brief matter; I can send you $2,000 from here at any time, so that there they may try to find-and they can-a swift sailing to take them-and the guns. You will tell me, because for twenty-five or thirty they could go in that way. If necessary they can be shipped as merchandise as you have said, and I am the only one here to know. Ah! Tell me you agree, for it is certainly all that is necessary, and certainly nothing else is needed. with the majesty of this example, and the force of it upon my conscience, Mayia and I shall go, after having been assured of the deepest affection from the emigrants, so that the same thing may be done everywhere. Is this not the time? Is this not your will? Need I say more? Need I write what you can read without my writing it? Are you not a man capable of true greatness? Any lukewarm attitude, any weakness, any hesitation will sap our strength, will insure the failure of our leaders to arrive in time, will forfeit the work we have needed in our country, will lose the faith and discipline that shows in this work of ours, as it is-not on the part of ony one of its men but of all of them. And the great respect which we will certainly earn through the magnitude which…

[ The letter was not completed.]

José Martí's Letters to Antonio Maceo:
July 20 1882 / June 18 1894 / June 22 1894 / January 19 1895
Martí on Maceo (from Patria |

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